American Dancer Kelsey Glennon Shares How to Travel the World as a Performing Artist

Dancer Kelsey Glennon
in The Acropolis of Athens, Greece

I’m Kelsey Glennon and I am an Actor’s Equity dancer and performing artist. I also write freelance and (occasionally) blog. I am currently based out of Orlando, FL, but plan on transitioning to living and working remotely in 2018.

My favorite thing to do when I travel is to find live music at a cozy local bar and people watch. I tend to explore on foot and wander cities in search of markets, local artisans, and ways to consume cheese.

Dancer Kelsey Glennon
in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

How and why did you get into traveling?

Though not my first trip abroad, my hunger for travel was fired up with my first solo adventure — to Costa Rica at the age of 20. I spent the summer in Tamarindo learning how to surf, salsa, and speak shaky Spanish. As a naive first-time solo traveler, I was NOT prepared (or maybe over prepared?). I packed two huge suitcases when all I needed was a bathing suit and a few sundresses.

That first Costa Rica trip was definitely an impulse. At the time I was trudging through college classes and a part time job. The monotony of it was really getting to me. It was 2009 and the recession had just begun. I was disillusioned with college because job prospects were bleak, and tuition was eating up what little money I had after the market crash. Not long after I returned from Costa Rica, I was offered a performance job in Tokyo. So I left school for a bit and lived and worked in Japan for eight months.

Though I eventually finished a degree in English (and I’m glad I did), I needed to have these travel experiences to give my education meaning, perspective, and drive. After college, I knew I wanted more experiences abroad, which lead me to performing aboard cruise ships.

Dancer Kelsey Glennon
Dancing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

How do you prepare for your adventures and travels?

As a working dancer, I primarily keep in shape by dancing. When I travel to new cities, I seek out the local dance scene. It’s one of my favorite ways to dive into local culture.

I also cross-train by taking pilates, yoga, barre, and cycling classes. If the weather’s warm, I love to swim outside. Daily movement is a must for me. My favorite way to experience a place is by working up a sweat. Kayaking in Dubrovnik, abseiling in Vanuatu, biking the hills of San Francisco, paddle boarding in the Florida Keys, snorkeling in Fiji. My most vivid travel memories are the ones in which I’m moving.

Dancer Kelsey Glennon
in El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico

How do you finance your travels?

I have been fortunate enough to fall into a career that is travel-heavy by nature. Pursuing the performing arts has endowed me with the opportunity to see the world. A lot of my adventures have been made possible by a job, contract, audition, or gig.

Besides performing, I side hustle by tutoring, teaching dance, and writing for the web. I also started a travel blog (that admittedly goes through long periods of neglect), but occasionally it brings in an affiliate paycheck or two.

When I’m not traveling “for work” I plan and fund my own travels. I have an amazing credit card—the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It gives me incredible travel rewards that I use for booking flights, hotels, or Airbnb’s. To date I think I’ve racked up over $2000 in travel credit.

Dancer and Traveler Kelsey Glennon
Along the Potomac. Photo credit: Dave Pavlina

Why is traveling important for you?

Travel has easily been the greatest education in my adult life. It has broadened my mind and continues to fuel my curiosity. In this fast-paced globalized world, the ability to adapt, understand, and empathize with what is “different,” is an invaluable quality. Travel has showed me that we’re far more alike than not… Neil Gaman says it best “…the walls between us are in truth no thicker than scenery.”

How do you bring your things with you?

When I first began traveling I was an embarrassing over-packer (see first trip to Costa Rica. 2 suitcases?! *facepalm*). As I’ve traveled I’ve minimized what I bring. My wardrobe is simple and made up of neutral staples that mix and match. Because I’m always active, I also bring a lot of athletic wear. I’ve narrowed down what I need to fit into a carryon Samsonite 360 rolling suitcase for short trips.

I’ve been a Samsonite suitcase lover since the beginning. For longer travels, I have a large hard-shell Samsonite that I check. It has smooth exterior that I like putting all of my travel stickers on.

I typically buy from brands that specialize in just a few things (Samsonite has been designing luggage since 1910). If a brand is trying to do too many things, it’s unlikely it will be particularly good at any of them.

Dancer and Traveler Kelsey Glennon
Mount Manganui, New Zealand

How do you organize things in your bags?

I’m methodical when it comes to packing. I like to know where everything is at all times. My essentials (phone, wallet, keys, passport, ID) are always within a quick reach. I am paranoid about them being stolen, so I look for backpacks that don’t have exterior pockets that thieves can easily access while you’re on the sidewalk or subway.

The REI Co-op Ruckpack 28 pack and The North Face Kaban Pack have clean, sleek design and are carry-on size. I do not like the look of typical “backpacker” backpacks—chunky and bulky with too many straps and pockets. I prefer to strike a happy medium between fashion and function. I need a backpack that can work as my bag for the theater (work), but also perform outdoors in the elements—something that can go from city to mountains.

Dancer and Traveler Kelsey Glennon
Abseiling in Vanuatu

How do your bags and gear hold up?

The longer I’ve traveled the more I realize the importance of thinking of my bags, gear, and clothing as investments. I have started to spend more on brands that will hold up for many years to come. I also look at brands that are sustainable and ethical companies. After learning that fashion is the second most damaging industry to the environment (after oil), I’m cognizant that I need to make better choices.

Some brands I’ve recently started loving are Tradlands, Able, Raven & Lily, Prana, Patagonia, and Toad & Co.

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

If I could do it all again, I would have invested in better made products from the beginning. Now that I want my stuff to really last I look into reliable brands and their business ethics.

I suppose my #1 recommendation would be to invest in a good quality water bottle. I use a Swell bottle because I like the size and it doesn’t acquire that funky smell that some re-usable bottles do. Reducing our use of plastic need to be a priority and that starts with not buying plastic water bottles straight out of TSA.

Dancer and Traveler Kelsey Glennon
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, USA. Photo credit: Dave Pavlina

What has been your best travel-related purchase below $100?

  • 12-inch portable, flexible tripod for iPhone and DSLR (sold by eTopTrade but fulfilled by Amazon): At just $14 you can’t go wrong. This tripod has twp different mounts, one for cellphones, and a screw-in mount for any DSLR or digital camera. It also has a built in level so that you know that you’re getting a straight shot.
  • MegaGear “Ever Ready” leather camera case: It keeps my Sony A6000 free of scratches when I stuff it in my bag with other miscellaneous things.
  • Travel Organizer Portable EVA Hard Drive Case: This case keeps my hard drives, cords, and portable batteries organized and secure so I know exactly where to find them.
  • Pro-Tec Athletics The Orb Deep Tissue High Density Massage Ball, 5-Inch Diameter, Blue: Though maybe not a piece of “gear,” this small massage ball goes with me everywhere. I tend to get stiff when I have to sit down for long periods of time, so I roll out my muscles wherever and whenever I can. Between dancing and exploring actively my muscles always need a bit of TLC.
Dancer and Traveler Kelsey Glennon
Photo credit: Dave Pavlina

What is your best advice for other travelers?

Travel YOUR way. I’m exasperated with the current trend I’m seeing where people or couples have “quit their 9-5,” and are now “making a full-time living traveling the world!!” Surprise, surprise—If you buy their $500 e-book “you can have this life too!”… You do not need an overpriced e-course to live a life of travel.

Figure out a balance, where you’re integrating travel at the pace and frequency that suits you (and you can reasonably afford). Don’t be fooled—full time travel is exhausting, lonely, and not what it seems like on Instagram. So don’t compare yourself to over-edited feeds. Don’t quit you day job (if you like it). And don’t let someone else tell you how to explore. There’s no right or wrong way to see the world. Just get out there.

Dancer Kelsey Glennon
Hiking Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

What will the future bring?

I’ve never really known what my future will look like—being a freelance artist is far from stable. But I’m working on changing that.

Though I love to perform onstage, I’d like to transition into choreography and creation. My next challenge as an artist is to dive into creating my own pieces for studios or regional theaters… Outside of the performing arts, I’m also beefing up my skills in web design, graphic design, and personal branding so I can begin taking on these projects for fellow freelance artists.

I’d like to start traveling slower and on my own terms. I’ve been pining for the Airstream lifestyle, where “home is where you park it.” I’d love to explore my country this way, while working and living remotely. So much to see, do, and learn in 2018!

Visit Kelsey Glennon on her travel blog and her stage career website, and follow her on Instagram

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